When Pima County sheriff’s deputies arrested Emily Joy Stephens on a warrant for child sex abuse charges, she was living here with her five children, all of whom are younger than 13, records show.
Stephens, 29, is being held in the Pima County jail without bond while awaiting extradition to Santa Cruz, California, where she is facing the charges.
Also accused in the case is California neurosurgeon James Kohut, 57, who is facing multiple counts of sexually abusing children younger than 14, according to an investigative report by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Stephens is facing six felony child-abuse charges involving three children under the age of 10 and three children under the age of 14.
On May 11, a Pima County deputy received a call from a Watsonville, California, police detective who had recovered a video camera that showed Stephens and another woman having sex with three minors under the age of 15, the report said.
The other woman, Rashel Brandon, is a 42-year-old nurse who worked with Kohut in a Santa Cruz hospital. She’s also facing multiple charges of child sexual abuse in connection with the case, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Police in Watsonville were unaware of Stephens’ whereabouts, but believing she was in Tucson, asked the local Sheriff’s Department for help in locating her, the records show.
Detectives obtained a search warrant and arrested Stephens at her home the next day. Her children — ages 12, 10, 7, 5 and 2 — were taken into custody by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
In addition to her children, Stephens was living with her longtime friend and business partner, who told detectives that she and Stephens operated a hat company together. She and Stephens sold hats at stores, fairs and festivals in Tucson and Santa Cruz, where they would visit as often as one to two times a month, according to the records.
The business partner told detectives that when they visited Santa Cruz, Kohut would come to the hotel room to meet with Stephens and the children, who often accompanied her on their trips.
The woman said Kohut “mentally tortured Emily by making promises to her about leaving his wife and being with her and having a family,” the report says.
She told detectives that Stephens is pregnant with Kohut’s baby.
The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office has said Kohut talked about “impregnating women to give birth to children he could sexually abuse in a so-called taboo family lifestyle,” but no evidence has been found that he was able to create such a family, according to reports by The Associated Press.
The business partner told police Stephens’ children seemed to like Kohut, with one of the girls even calling him “Dr. Daddy,” the report shows.
In mid-March, Stephens and the business partner made a trip to Santa Cruz while the kids were on spring break, but Kohut never met the group as planned, the report says.
“That appeared to be when the relationship between James and Emily went downhill,” the woman told detectives. “He would threaten to call the police and DCS if (Stephens) did not bring the kids out to visit again. He specifically wanted the 10-year-old to come out and visit him alone.”
The woman told police Kohut had been threatening to take away the new baby as soon as it was born.
Police also interviewed the father of Stephens’ three oldest children, who said that in early May Stephens started receiving harassing text messages from Kohut and Brandon, the report said.
He told police he didn’t know why they were harassing her.
Interviewers with the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center spoke to all five of Stephens’ children, but none of them made any disclosures of physical abuse by Stephens or Kohut.
When asked if she’d ever seen an adult without clothes on, Stephens’ 5-year-old daughter told interviewers that she sees her mom naked, as the woman regularly took baths with her and two of the other children.
When asked about “Dr. Daddy,” the child said that at one time he used to live with the family, but not anymore.
During an interview with Stephens’ 10-year-old daughter, one detective noted she “appeared to be guarded about the information provided and appeared to cry through most of the interview.”
Police seized several items from the house, including video-game systems, iPads, two computers, a phone, handwritten letters to Stephens, a handwritten receipt from Kohut and a VHS tape labeled “Emily’s tape.”